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Moderna Vaccine Around 95% Effective Shows Promise For End Of COVID-19 Pandemic

Immunologist Carl Ware of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Instit...

Credit: Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute

Above: Immunologist Carl Ware of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute gets a dose of Moderna's experimental vaccine in this undated photo.

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A San Diego partner of Moderna talks of the company's promising vaccine. The news of its success comes just a week after another company, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, announced its experimental vaccine was over 90% effective following phase 3 clinical trials.

Aired: November 17, 2020 | Transcript

As coronavirus cases surge across the country, topping out at a million new cases in less than a week, there’s at least some promising news. Biotech Moderna Inc. announced Monday that its experimental vaccine is almost 95% effective.

The news of Moderna’s success comes just a week after another company, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, announced its experimental vaccine was over 90% effective following phase 3 clinical trials.

Listen to this story by Shalina Chatlani.

Moderna chief medical officer Dr. Tal Zaks says he’s confident the company can start handing out vaccines very soon. He told CNN the treatment should be effective for most people.

“By the end of this year, we said that in the United States we expect to have 20 million doses. So I think by the end of the year hopefully we could start to vaccinate people. I'm obviously very happy with the number that we have at 94.5%," Zaks said.

“As we look at least at the Phase 1 data, you see the same level of an immune response across both younger and older adults."

Results from two vaccine producers mean that Americans could be getting that vaccine soon, but there are still some important steps that have to happen.

So says immunologist Carl Ware, director of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute's Infectious and Inflammatory Disease Center.

“The goals of the politicians don’t really matter here. It's really based on science and what we have to follow. We need the data. As far as timeline… first step we need FDA approval and fortunately, that’s already happening," said Ware, who was a participant in the Moderna trial.

“But it's probably going to take 6 months to a full year to get enough people vaccinated for us to really get out of this dark tunnel of infection.”

Ware said there was a very diverse set of participants in the Moderna trial. And he’s excited to see promising results from the company's novel vaccine.

Both Moderna and Pfizer use a technology based on the molecule mRNA, which stands for messenger RNA. This genetic information can be used to trigger a coronavirus immune response, without actually infecting a recipient with coronavirus.

But one challenge still ahead of scientists is to learn how long a vaccine may be effective, Ware says.

“How long will the immunity last from this vaccine? That’s a key issue… we need to make sure that the vaccine will stimulate the right type of immunity.”

Moderna told NPR it plans to file in the coming weeks with the FDA so that it could be swiftly approved for emergency use authorization.

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Photo of Shalina Chatlani

Shalina Chatlani
Science and Technology Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover all things science and technology — from the biotech industry in San Diego to rooftop solar energy on new homes. I'm interested in covering the human side of science and technology, like barriers to entry for people of color or gender equity issues on biotech boards.

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